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Unformatted text preview: Hayes Introductory Linguistics p. 52 Chapter 4: Syntax I — Phrase Structure 1. Knowledge of syntax A theme of Chapter 1 was implicit knowledge : people show they possess such knowledge in that it is reflected in the patterning of their language, but they cannot directly intuit the form of that knowledge. Here, we will focus on the kinds of implicit knowledge encountered in studying syntax , which is the study of sentence structure. What do speakers known when they know the syntax of a language? (1) They have intuitions about grammaticality . A sentence is grammatical if it is syntactically well-formed; if it counts as “part of the language.” Grammaticality is distinct from merely making sense. Consider, for example, the following series of sentences: She wonders if Alice is going to like Bill. Who does she wonder if Alice is going to like? (answer: Bill ) *Who does she wonder if is going to like Bill? (answer: Alice ) As far as meaning goes, the third sentence is as sensible as the second. It is only ungrammatical. Similarly, sentences like * Bill and Fred think that I like each other (p. 5) have a perfectly sensible interpretation, but are ungrammatical. Sentences like Colorless green ideas sleep furiously , however, are quite grammatical but are nonsense. (2) Our implicit knowledge of syntax cannot possibly take the form of a list of sentences. No such list could be stored in a finite mind, as there are an infinite number of grammatical sentence in English (or any other human language). It is easy to show this. A list of sentences like the following: Alice likes Fred John said that Alice likes Fred Bill believes that John said that Alice likes Fred can be extended onward to infinity. Since syntactic knowledge cannot take the form of a list, we are led to the more reasonable hypothesis that we implicitly know a set of syntactic rules ; the rules enable us to create novel sentences (a potentially infinite supply of them) on the spot. Just what sort of rules could do this will become clear later on. (3) Speakers have the ability to recognize and manipulate systematic relations among sentences. For example, the following set of four sentences: Hayes Introductory Linguistics p. 53 Bill shaved Fred (active statement) Did Bill shave Fred? (active question) Fred was shaved by Bill (passive statement) Was Bill shaved by Fred? (passive question) forms a clear pattern that can be duplicated by a speaker of English for an indefinite number of other sentences. (4) Sentences are not simply strings of words; they also involve grouping of words into larger units. The easiest way to show this is with sentences that have two meanings, traceable to two different groupings of the words: There were (old)(men and women) There were (old men)(and women) They (danced) and (sang the first number) They (danced and sang)(the first number) Sue saw (the man)(with the telescope) Sue saw (the man with the telescope) Bill (gave)(the Chinese vases) (...to someone) Bill (gave)(the Chinese)(vases)...
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This note was uploaded on 04/02/2011 for the course LING 20 taught by Professor Schutze during the Fall '08 term at UCLA.
- Fall '08